BHUTAN'S KING ABDICATES, HANDS POWER TO CROWN PRINCE
King Jigme Singye
Wangchuk has abdicated to make way for his son, Crown Prince Jigme Kesar
Namgyel Wangchuk, to become Bhutan’s first constitutional monarch.
The 51-year-old monarch
had planned to abdicate in 2008 when Bhutan is
slated to hold its first elections and become a parliamentary
democracy. But it is understood the abdication has been brought forward to
give 26-year-old Namgyel time to gain more political experience. The
decision by this very popular head of state to quit has come as a shock to
the 700,000 Bhutanese citizens of the kingdom.
King Wangchuk was the
fourth king of the tiny nation. He ascended to the throne in 1972 at 16
years of age, after the death of his father. He became most famous for
having decided to make his isolated mountain nation's priority not its GDP,
but its GNH -- or "gross national happiness."
Bhutan's monarchy dates
back to 1907, when King Wangchuk's great grandfather was formally anointed
the first king, with British support.
The isolated Himalayan
kingdom of Bhutan is land-locked between India and Tibet (China), and has
remained untouched by most modern influences. In recent years, Jigme
Wangchuk slowly pulled the state into the modern world and opted to
relinquish much of the monarchy's power.
Television arrived in
Bhutan in 1999 and the Internet in 2000. But Bhutanese policies are
directed at preserving the culture and environment of the nation. Only
6,000 foreign visitors are allowed in each year.
JIGME KHESAR NAMGYEL WANGCHUCK
BECOMES THE 5th DRUK GYALPO
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, 26, is Jigme Singye Wangchuk’s eldest son,
who studied in the US before graduating in politics from Magdalen College as
Wangchuk, 51, said, "I am confident that a very bright future lies ahead for
Bhutan with the leadership of a new king and a democratic system of
government that is best suited for our country as enshrined under the
Constitution. I have every confidence that there will be unprecedented
progress and prosperity for our nation in the reign of our fifth King.”
outgoing king expressed his confidence that Namgyel, as the fifth Druk
Gyalpo was fully capable of carrying out his responsibilities. Judging by
his performance as Crown Prince, and his thinking, and his principles, the
king said he had no doubt that the fifth Druk Gyalpo would serve his nation
with selfless dedication. His Majesty said that if the Crown Prince was not
worthy, he would not have handed over his responsibilities just because he
was his own son.
overseas, Prince Namgyel became known as “Prince Charming” because of his
pleasant manner and good looks.
BHUTAN – THE LAND OF
The Himalayan state of
Bhutan is a mountainous country of breathtaking
beauty, which calls itself the "Land of the Thunder Dragon." The
Bhutanese name of the nation, in fact, is DRUK – “dragon,” and the dragon
is featured on the national flag. The yellow of the upper part of the flag
expresses the politics and the right of the king. The orange expresses the
right of Buddhism.
has a form of government which practices a separation of politics and
religion; the king takes care of politics, and the head lama conducts the
Bhutan is becoming
increasingly known for its pure practice of Mahayana Buddhism in the Tantric
form, its untouched culture, its pristine ecology and wildlife, and the
unparalleled scenic beauty of its majestic peaks and lush valleys.
It is a matter of pride
to the Bhutanese that their small kingdom was never colonised. Its ancient
history, which is a mixture of the oral tradition and classical literature,
tells of a largely self-sufficient population which had limited contact with
the outside world until the turn of the century.
Bhutan has been described
as a natural paradise. While much of the world mourns the loss of its
ecology, this small Kingdom is emerging as an example to the international
community; it has more than 72 percent of its land still under forest and
has a great variety of rare plant and wildlife species.
The terrain in Bhutan
ranges from the sub-tropical foothills in the south, through the temperate
zones, to dizzying heights of over 7,300 meters (24,000 feet).
The population of Bhutan
is, in many ways, one large family. More than 90 percent of the people live
on subsistence farming, scattered in sparsely populated villages across the
rugged terrain. The people farm narrow terraces cut into the steep hill
Rice is the staple diet
in the lower regions, while wheat, buckwheat, and maize is in the other
valleys. In the past, Bhutanese communities settled in the valleys with
limited communication. It is for this reason that the sense of individuality
and independence emerges as a strong characteristic of the people. It is for
the same reason that, despite the small population, it has developed a
number of languages and dialects.
Bhutanese national dress
is compulsory for men and women, and smoking is banned.
Bhutan is a land of
dzongs (fortresses) and monasteries. The national sport is archery. Each
village has its own archery range, and contests take place the whole year
The Bhutanese are, by
nature, physically strong and fiercely independent with an open and ready
sense of humour. Hospitality is an in-built social value in Bhutan.
BHUTAN AND ITS
(see details of Bhutan’s
Bhote 50%, ethnic Nepalese 35%, indigenous or migrant tribes 15%
(official), various Druk, Tibetan and Nepalese dialects
Lamaistic Buddhist 75%; Indian/Nepalese Hinduism 25%. Christians
DISTRICTS OF BHUTAN
BHUTAN’S NEW CONSTITUTION
The announcement of the king’s abdication in favour of the Crown Prince
comes at a time when the nation is preparing to change from an absolute
monarchy to a constitutional one.
Thimphu are reported as saying the king brought the date of transfer forward
because he believed it better to democratize sooner rather than risk
suffering the same fate as Nepal’s King Gyanendra who was stripped of all
his remaining vestiges of power and removed (at last temporarily) as head of
state in Nepal, in December (06). (There is no suggestion, however, that the
Bhutan king was under similar pressure.)
A new constitution is
expected to be formally adopted very soon, which will set up a two-party
democracy after nearly a century of absolute monarchy. The draft of this
first written constitution was introduced in March 2005.
The constitution provides for two
houses of parliament – a 75-member national assembly and a 25-member
national council – with the king as the head of state.
The Constitution emanated from the
King whose vision would take the country into the distant future, ensuring
the well being of the people and the sovereignty of the nation. It also
mandated for the people of Bhutan more fundamental rights than most other
King Jigme Wangchuk had himself worked
on the Constitution for two years. He had studied more than 100 different
Constitutions, not to copy their contents, but to draw from them and make
the contents of the Bhutanese Constitution more meaningful.
The Chief Justice of Bhutan said that
His Majesty the King was personally presenting the Constitution to the
people of Bhutan. This had never before happened in human history.
There has been a lot of discussion in
Bhutan on the provisions in the constitution regarding religion. The main
religion of Bhutan is Lamaistic (Mahayana/Tibetan)
Buddhism, but some advocates wanted the spiritual heritage of Bhutan to be
specified as Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingma schools instead of generalising it as
Buddhism. Others suggested that religion and politics should not be
separated since Bhutan had prospered throughout history because of the
harmony between religion and politics. One demand was for specific
provisions for the rabdeys and goendeys, and another voice maintained that
the Druk Gyalpo (Bhutan King) should be described as the protector of
Buddhism and not of all religions.
The Chief Justice explained that the
drafting committee had discussed these issues thoroughly and had come to the
agreement that, since the Constitution was a document that looked 100 years
ahead, it would not be advisable to mention different sects because there
are other religious sects in Bhutan. The committee had also seen wisdom in
the democratic philosophy of separating the Religion from the State because
it would enable both religion and politics to flourish without interference
from each other. He said that His Majesty the King, as head of state, was
mandated to be the protector of all religions.
The emphasis on Buddhist culture has
in the past led to serious rioting among the Nepali Hindu community in the
south of Bhutan.
For a long time Christians have faced
intimidation and imprisonment. Early 2006, two Bhutanese evangelists were
imprisoned for several months after showing the Jesus film in a home.
Let us pray that the new monarch will
be a wise ruler, and that the constitution will indeed bring freedom, as it
promises, to all the people of this beautiful land.